Fears are growing for elderly and housebound people yet to receive their first COVID-19 jab, who have been given no idea when they will be vaccinated.
The local health authority told this paper on deadline that people would be contacted in the next fortnight.
Despite government proclamations that the first four priority groups had been offered vaccinations, and Boris Johnson’s announcement that the rollout would soon start focusing on the over 40s, a significant minority of the most vulnerable people in our borough are yet to receive their first dose.
The numbers are worrying. Although 48,000 people in Southwark have now received a first jab according to a briefing seen by the News, coverage among the oldest residents outside care homes is lagging behind.
Whereas around 90 per cent of elderly care home residents have now had jabs, this figure declines to around seven in ten residents overall who are categorised as top priority age groups.
Take-up among over 80s is higher, with over 85 per cent having had a first dose.
There are various reasons why a jab may have been cancelled or delayed, including general sickness or returning positive COVID-19 test.
However, the News has been contacted by several concerned family members who say their elderly relatives are unvaccinated due to being housebound and therefore unable to travel to a vaccination centre, and are unable to book directly online.
One woman contacted us after an 84-year-old relative in Camberwell, who should have been vaccinated before February 15, was told by Jessa Towell Health Centre that home vaccinations have been delayed due to a shortage and there was ‘no update’ on when the situation would change.
His great-niece said: “I’m concerned that this is happening across the area and UK, and housebound people are being forgotten due to the additional logistics of getting a vaccine to them.
“People like my great-uncle are in a very vulnerable category and are having to rely on people coming into their house to deliver care – putting them at more risk.
“That’s also even more of a worry if lockdown restrictions start to be lifted in the coming weeks as reported before they’ve received their vaccine.”
She added: “I’m also concerned that the news coverage last week from the government suggests they have ‘successfully vaccinated’ everyone in the top priority groups by their February target 15 – when they haven’t.”
Several other families have contacted this paper with similar stories over the last few weeks, some of whom have gone on to receive jabs after a delay. Others are still waiting.
Repeated enquiries to South East London Clinical Commissioning Group throughout the last month, asking how many top priority residents remained unvaccinated, why housebound residents were reporting delays, and what was being done to close this gap, went unanswered until shortly before going to press.
On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the CCG told the News housebound residents could expect their jabs within the next fortnight: “Everyone in a priority cohort living in south Southwark has been invited to be vaccinated, with pre-booked appointments available across the area.
“Housebound patients are also being offered the vaccine at home and we expect to have contacted and offered the vaccine to all housebound patients within the next two weeks.”
Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman said she has received several emails from friends and family members of elderly housebound constituents who remain unvaccinated, and had been lobbying the clinical commissioning group to ensure the patients are contacted as soon as possible.
“I am continuing to monitor the vaccine situation in Camberwell and Peckham closely with regular meetings with the South East London Clinical Commissioning Group,” she said in COVID-19 briefing.
She has also written to health secretary Matt Hancock along with 22 other London MPS calling for an updated strategy for housebound vaccinations to be published to ensure no one is left behind.
While there has been huge focus on vaccine hesitancy and uptake among younger groups and health and social care professionals, there appears to be little information about the logistical challenges of vaccinating the most vulnerable groups.
It is unclear whether vaccine supply or staff shortages are playing a role. Earlier this year London Mayor Sadiq Khan claimed the capital had not received its fare share of doses as officials had failed to take into account the much higher number of registered patients surgeries have, on average, in the city compared with more rural areas.
Two weeks ago Matt Hancock admitted a third of all social care staff in the county were, so far, unvaccinated.
This week, further figures emerged showing around a quarter of NHS staff in London have also failed to receive jabs – with the city reporting the worst NHS vaccine uptake nationally.
Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout has continued apace with the over-40s on track to be invited for jabs later in March, with the government aiming to vaccinate all adults by July in the hope lockdown can finally end.